In the embedded systems there is an inauspicious but immensely important fact to ponder. And the fact is that once deployed in the real world they are always somehow vulnerable to unethical attacks. In this digitally connected world, security of the embedded systems are at unprecedented levels. Most of the devices focus on their specific software while despising the lower-level component and the OS there.
With billions of embedded systems in operation, there is a great potential for attackers to fabricate tactics, which can steal sensitive data or manipulate the deployed devices for their profits!
For the intrinsic operations of the device and the specific functionality, the software is updated regularly- as per the requirements. And these changing dynamics impose more threats on them.
Taking note of the situation and with a vision to help the developers, the domain leader InSemi Technologies has come up with the top 10 tips to enhance the security of embedded systems.
Let’s delve into the details.
1. Never Leave Sensitive Information in ClearText
ClearText is the information that is stored or sent in an unencrypted form and is readily readable. The attackers can extract and exploit the data and applications left by the developers in cleartext form.
Moreover, only encrypting the data and application is not ample. One must also ensure the security of encryption keys, their storage, and the algorithm used with them. One must never assume that simply safeguarding with SSL or TSL in transit is enough. The same data is stored in the cloud platform and stored locally as well. Such data is the most vulnerable.
Also, the attackers can reverse engineer the cleartext applications and detrimentally modify them. This not only makes them exploit sensitive data or the algorithm but can cause the code to execute in unintentional ways.
2. Start with Secure Authenticated Boot
Vulnerabilities in the boot-loader make the device susceptible to cold boot attacks. Cybercriminals can penetrate a device that doesn’t have a secure boot process. The boot-loader, operating systems, hardware/software configurations, BIOS, and UEFI can be altered this way or substituted with something malicious. And these modifications persist even after the complete re-install of the system.
3. Avoiding access to unauthorized components
The attacks are not only through exploiting vulnerabilities but also through the implicit trust in one component to leak critical information. This empowers them with different kinds of second-order attacks at later stages. Restricting access to such components the unintended openings would be blocked and the attackers would be obstructed to pivot from one component to the other.
4. Correct Configuration of Isolating Mechanism
The right configuration of software containers blocks cybercriminals from gaining unauthorized root-level access to the system. VM breakouts facilitate the cyber-attacker to introspect and alter the contents of other containers or the guests of the system and interact with the service provider in unplanned ways.
5. Reducing the Attack Surface
The more interfaces and bloat features; the more the attack surface and holes, can be exploited to penetrate the system. Moreover, if there are more and more libraries in the application package, the more is the attack surface available.
A minimalistic approach to software development- with the addition of only the mandatory functionalities, makes it hard for the attackers to penetrate the code.
6. Restricted Privileges
Make sure to optimize the accesses that your application has to the overall system. The accesses under consideration are discretionary controls, system-level privileges, namespaces, and others, and if they are more than necessary then it might put the system at risk.
This is for the potentialities of those accesses being leveraged to manipulate the system, and this can be devastating for the whole organization.
7. Protected Communications
Still, industries have good faith in TLSv1.2 when security is under consideration. But the stories of penetration conclude a valid point of proactivity in confirming the security protocols. One must only extend trust to the authentic users and the communications must be established via encrypted channels.
8. A Check on Inputs
When the inputs being provided to the system are not put in check, then arises the potentialities of malicious inputs by the attackers. Such eccentric input can cause the malfunctioning of the downstream components. SQL injections and Buffer Overflows are examples of such attacks.
Therefore the developers must check inputs across all types of data- ranging from web submission to RF captures. This will ensure the variety of data being sent to the system by authentic users.
9. Secure Coding
Loopholes (from the security perspective) in the coding phase allow considerable flaws to progress in the system development. And these flaws facilitate the attackers to penetrate the system.
With the secured coding workflow and specialized testing practices, one can easily get & grout the fault lines. Security practices & secured coding practices must be deployed together.
10. Automated Monitoring Tools
Manual monitoring of event logs and signs of breaches is not only tedious but arduous as well. It is always prudential to have an automated monitoring system at hand that works for you. Such tools will be your special watchdogs working round the clock and will also have an eye on the history of penetrations.
With modern technologies, the entire log collection can be audited instantly and real-time reports can be developed. Specialized behavioral tools can sense the suspected activities inside the system and with such continual scans, one can greatly prevent disasters.
See, there is no single comprehensive solution to assure the security of the embedded systems. It is a multifaceted continuous process that needs all-inclusive monitoring of the different aspects. With these aforementioned tips, the embedded developers can greatly counter the potentialities of the penetration and can prevent the whole organization from financial, regulatory, and reputational losses.
What would you like to add to this list of tips? Or what would you suggest to all for strengthening the systems- tell us in the comments!